Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Leslie Van Houten
Van Houten was described by the prosecution as an indulged child who had a happy childhood, however when she was 14 years old her parents divorced and she began to experiment with LSD. Before she had turned 15 she had become pregnant and ended her pregnancy with an abortion. She decided to follow her spiritual leanings and become a nun, but she quickly abandoned this ambition.
In 1968 she met aspiring actor Bobby Beausoleil who was a member of Manson's "family". Van Houten joined the "family" but would later comment that it was only to remain close to Beausoleil. Beausoleil was jailed in 1968 after being found guilty of the murder of music teacher Gary Hinman , but Van Houten remained with Manson.
On the night of August 10, 1969 Charles Manson drove Van Houten, Charles 'Tex' Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins and Linda Kasabian to an address in Los Feliz, Los Angeles. Manson entered the house alone, returning a few minutes later to say that the occupants were tied up, and that Watkins, Krenwinkel and Van Houten were to go inside and kill them.
Krenwinkel and Van Houten found Rosemary LaBianca in an upstairs bedroom and sat with her. She began to panic when she heard her husband Leno, who had been tied up downstairs, screaming. Watson was stabbing him to death. Krenwinkel then began stabbing Rosemary and Van Houten also stabbed her. Van Houten would later admit to stabbing her, but only after she had died. Rosemary's autopsy showed that several of her wounds were post-mortem; it was impossible to determine which of the two women had inflicted them.
Van Houten was tried along with Manson, Krenwinkel and Atkins for her part in the murders. (Watson would be tried separately as he was at this time in Texas fighting extradition). Van Houten was the youngest of the defendants and considered the least committed to Manson. She was considered to be the most likely of them all to receive a recommendation for mercy, as the only thing that had been proved against her was that she had stabbed somebody who may or may not have been already dead. Throughout the trial she was disruptive and uncooperative, and was inclined to giggle when listening to testimony, particularly when the deaths of the LaBiancas and that of Sharon Tate were discussed, and she quickly lost the sympathy of the jury. All of the defendants were found guilty of murder and were sentenced to death on March 29, 1971. The death sentence was later automatically commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court's People v. Anderson decision resulted in the invalidation of all death sentences imposed in California prior to 1972.
She won a retrial in 1977 on the basis that her counsel had not effectively represented her at the original trial. She was once again found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.
She was most recently denied parole on August 25, 2004, despite a glowing psychological report from the state appointed psychologist, for another two years and a psychological evaluation was ordered for her next hearing.
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